When Segun Arinze otherwise known as The Black Arrow first came into limelight between the late 80’s and the early 90’s, a debate had been ignited concerning which part of the country he originally hails from especially as he bears two distinct names (Segun and Arinze), which are from two entirely different ethnic backgrounds. While many swore that the then music star is from the Yoruba-speaking parts, other insisted that he is Igbo.
Penultimate week at the Imo Concorde Hotel, Owerri, however, Arinze, ensconed in one of the various reception areas of the hotel and with a chilled bottle of a non-alcoholic drink in front of him sort of cleared the air. In an interview with The Source, the musician-cum-actor said: “I know a lot of people kind of get confused over it. But I am from Badagry in Lagos State. My mum is Igbo. Segun and Arinze are my names. I just decided to use it together because this is showbiz. Actually, my surname is Aina Padonou.”
Padonou, the eldest child in a family of seven grew up like any other normal child did “… and I had my own fair share of ups and downs, especially when I was not sure what life held for me,” he explained.
Due to his father’s nature of work which was pure business, the young Padonou and family lived a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. Little wonder he had his early education in such places as Kaduna, Asaba, Benin and Ilorin where he had his primary and secondary education, which he however rounded off in Lagos. As soon as he was done with that phase of his life, Padonou joined a play group called Anunsa House of Play where he learnt the ropes before going to the University of Ife to study Dramatic Arts.
“My mum was the one who encouraged me from the start. It was as if she saw something unique in me,” he said. On the other hand, Padonou said: “Dad was neither here nor there because he really wanted me to study law. The night that changed everything was one faithful night in Ilorin. I was already in bed when he saw me on television advertising a programme called Youth Scene. Immediately he saw me, he rushed to wake me up to see myself on T.V. That same night, people called him to say they saw his son on T.V. I’ll say that did the trick. He later advised me to be focused.”
His sojourn into full-time acting came right after his commercially successful music album, “Nwanyi Yanga.” Probably because of his bulging eye balls, which sometimes gives him a menacing look, producers regard him as the perfect character to play equally menacing roles such as his delivery in several action-soaked flicks.
Padonou is not only a musician and an actor, he is also a very successful voice-over artiste and has many movies and adverts to his credit. He is also an accomplished compere. His live talk show, No Hold Barred which has been off air for a few years now because in his words, “I stepped on toes,” he told The Source, would soon be back on air. Though divorced from talented actress, Ann Njemanze, the father of three, one boy, (Segun Jnr.) and two lovely girls, Morenike and Ebunoluwa, said he has not given up on matrimony yet as he would soon be getting married again-but this time not to an actress.
Segun further explained why he doesn’t smoke. “The closest to smoking I have done is when I am on screen. I don’t like smoking. My eyes are big like that of a frog and I will go smoke or take drugs, that means I am finishing myself.”
We hope you’ll enjoy this “no-holds-barred” interview which we had with the Black Arrow, Segun Arinze Padonou.
Quite a number of people believe that you are a bad person and somehow your roles in movies help in accentuating this notion. What is your take on this?
Well, if many people think that I am bad by virtue of the roles I play, then it’s a total misconception. There is always a difference between the character you play and who you are in real life. I am a very simple person, I like simplicity and I like to take things easy. I like humour a lot and I am also a serious-minded person.
If you are that “simple” in real life as you said, how come you are able to perfectly put up such menacing acts in movies?
My training as an actor requires that you just do your job. It’s a job. I am what you may call a method actor. I pick up a role having in mind that in life, there are different kinds of characters and you pick up on one and say this is how I see this character and, of course, you go ahead to recreate the character.
So why do you think producers like featuring you to play such characters?
Hmm—First, it has to do with my eyes. I think that when I open them wide enough, it’s got this mean menacing look when I am playing these roles. But I am not a stuck character.
I have always said that Nigerian movie producers and directors always want to feature one in a particular character when they see that you are good at it. Like they go for Justice Esiri, Olu Jacobs or Pete Edochie if they are looking for a person to play a chief. Lover boy roles, they go for RMD, Ramsey Noah, Bob-Manuel, et cetera. See, an actor needs to break out sometimes and say, I don’t want to do this, I am an actor? Granted, there are some roles you may not be suited for, but you can try it. For me, its totally unacceptable to be stucked in one role. I am a trained actor and I can fit in anywhere.
Have you been given the opportunity to play other roles?
Of course, of course, I have played Atlanta with Grace Amah. I’ve done Widow and people liked my character in it. I have played other roles as well like a father, and so on.
Have you ever played a lover-boy role before?
Yes, I have with Stella Damaus. I play romantic roles and other roles. I don’t see myself as a stuck actor because it kills you, most especially when you are growing to be a brand. It affects the person especially when a company is looking for who to work with. We haven’t got to that level yet when people will understand that this person is just doing his job. It has really hurt me in the past as corporate sponsors would say that I do not fit their brand. You can just imagine that. It hurts.
Now, when you get a script, what is the first thing you do?
First, I read through it, understand the character, then decide if I want to do it or not.
Are you saying that the money offered don’t sometimes entice you into doing a particular movie?
Sometimes, the story is very good and it doesn’t affect the payment. I just do it because I know that if I do it, it will fetch me another job. Sometimes I do it and insist on the payment. If the script is not good, I say it and refuse to do it. Dem no dey kill person put.
I go say I no dey do, na by force? I have turned down so many scripts. This year alone, I have turned down almost 10 scripts.
So, how many movies have you shot this year?
Because I didn’t want to do them. I tell them to send the scripts, I read through them and if I don’t like it I send it back, saying I don’t like it. See, you’ve got to position yourself as an actor. You’ve got to make a statement. You just don’t act because everybody is acting. I’ll rather starve to keep my quality. But I know I won’t starve because I know God has blessed me immensely with so much talent. Over talent dey worry me (laughs). You understand?
And what are these talents?
Voice-overs, singing, doing P.R work, quite a number of them. When its time for me to drop a script, I do it.
How expensive are you?
The honest truth is that you can’t place a worth on yourself. There is no price tag. You can never ever get what you are worth, but what you negotiate.
What is the highest you’ve received so far?
I don’t reveal such publicly.
So, would you disclose the lowest your’ve received?
No I won’t. You can use your imagination to know whether I am in the six figure area.
In many ways I think you are, especially with a voice like yours. Lately you’ve been everywhere doing voice overs and all the jobs related to it. Tell me, when did you discover that you could do voice-overs?
Thanks. It was many many years back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I used to watch CNN, listen to radio. I’ll hear Sony Irabor, Mani Onumonu, Osaze Iyamu talk. So I started working with my friends Tunde Ajidejidu alongside Kingsley Ogoro. Before then though, I did a little of voice training while at the University of Ife. One day, I told them that I would like to try some voice-overs which I did well, so since then, if anyone came and complained that they didn’t have a voice -over artiste, Kingsley would say get Segun. Then, it was not for money. It was like that till I met Sony Irabor who was a very big influence. He came to us, wanted a voice- over artiste, I was called and naturally he produced me, telling me how to pronounce words and all that. I was having fun and getting paid at the same time. I did voice-over for this same people I hold in high esteem. I listen to a lot of radio to make sure I pronounce the words very well.
Tell me, between music and movies which came first?
Both came together.
How do you mean? I remember your album Nwanyi Yanga, did you start singing before you went into movies?
I have been acting before I even went into music. I was doing stage plays with Anunsa Play House. I was doing something with Tade Ogidan when we did Boys Next Door. Nwanyi Yanga came out in 1992 and it’s the only album I have done till date.
Well, because I was frustrated out of music then. It was not lucrative as it is now, but that’s not to say I’ll want to do an album because it is lucrative. It’s because I feel the need to sing, that’s why I wait to do it. I have an album now, release on O’Jez Music label.
What’s the relationship between you and Stella Damasus?
We are very good friends. She is my sister and I see her as one of the finest actresses and musicians this world has ever seen. Stella, Kate Henshaw and Bimbo Akintola are my friends. I am close to Omotola, Genevieve, et cetera.
Now, let’s talk about your love life. You were once married to actress Ann Njemanze. What triggered the break-up?
The marriage Kaput!
Is that how you are going to put it?
Well, what do you want me to say? It kaput 10 years ago. Time flies doesn’t it?
You have a daughter from that relationship?
Yes, I also have another daughter and a son. My daughter is called Morenike and she is 11. Before I got married, I had a son called Segun Jnr. who is 14. Then, of course, I have a third child with somebody else called Ebunoluwa and she is eight-years- old.
Away from all that, can you tell me some of the movies you’ve shot?.
I can’t remember really. But… I was in Battle of Love, The Return, Vuga, Hard Justice, Silent Night 1,2 and 3, No Peace for the Wicked, No Mercy, and several others.
Tell me what you like in a woman?
Simplicity. Beauty. Brilliance.
What informs your style?
My mood atimes. I am choosy about what I wear, what makes me comfortable. I go for quality, not quantity. I am not your everyday man-about-town. I pick where I go. I am not particularly a jewelry person, but I wear them sometimes
How rich are you?
I am comfortable. I worked hard to be where I am today.
Why was your television show, No-Holds-Barred taken off air?
Politics affected it. I guess I wasn’t mature enough to know the intricacies of doing a talk show. I understand better now. I am not talking about the content but the behind-the-scene events. A lot of people were not too happy with it because they thought I was hitting too hard. Even from the top. I guess I got into trouble after I interviewed Asari Dokubo in 2005. I am very equipped now and we would be coming out soon.